Wednesday, February 13, 2013

This Lent: Wandering in the Desert

The post I had planned to write on Ash Wednesday and Lent just a few days ago is much different than the post I now write.  (For a more traditional reflection, see last years' posts on Penance.) With the resignation of the Pope, this Lent takes on new meaning for me.  For me, the next forty days (and perhaps beyond) will be much more like wandering through the desert than I expected them to be. 

On Monday morning, my husband woke me with the news.  In addition to being quite shocked, I'll admit that I was also a bit angry.  "Pope John Paul II continued to lead the Church through old age and poor health until his death," I thought.  "So why is Pope Benedict abandoning us?"  And that's exactly what I felt like, a child abandoned by her Father.  And during Lent, a time in which the faithful even more in need of a shepherd.

But then I stopped being selfish and started to think about the reasons why the Holy Father resigned.  And read this post that highlighted how truly unique and humble his act was.  And all anger faded away.  Instead, I was overwhelmed with love and gratitude for our Pope.  I cried.

Then I saw this image:
(on CatholicVote's facebook page) and I cried some more.  The tears came from love, from gratitude, and from a much deeper, darker emotion: fear.

I am afraid.  Pope Benedict is a good man.  He is a good Pope.  He has guided his flock well.  There are no guarantees that the next Pope will do the same. 

Do I believe that Christ guides His Church on earth?  Absolutely!  Yet I am also aware that the Church, while perfect, is comprised of humans who in their weakness are capable of distorting the Truth of the Church (either purposefully or unintentionally).  I was a history major, I've read about Church of the middle ages - the Popes who lived immoral personal lives, who sold indulgences to pad their pockets and bought their seat in the Chair of Saint Peter through money, power, and intrigue.  While the Church has been able to endure these papacies with its Truth intact, certainly their hypocrisy pushed some away from the Church.  There was damage done to the Church.

Pope Benedict is the champion of orthodoxy.  I fear a more liberal Pope.  There are already those whisperings, "Maybe the new Pope will change the Church's views on ___________."  (You can fill in the blank with a myriad of counter-cultural Church teachings.)  While I believe the doctrines of the Church will remain faithful to God's Truth no matter the Pope, there is still that fear that a not-so-orthodox Pope will lead his flock astray.  A prolonged lax attitude toward contraception and sexuality during my mom's generation resulted in Catholics who were ignorant of Church teaching and when finally confronted by the Truth, rejected it in large numbers.  What if the next Pope decides to turn a blind eye to certain lapses in teaching? 

This Lent will be a period of intense prayer and fasting for me.  I will be praying for our Holy Father, for the conclave who will elect his successor, for the Church as a whole, and for an increase of my faith and my trust in God.  In the past, I have struggled to find meaning in Lent. I was not raised in a family that celebrated liturgical seasons and I still have a hard time following the cycles of the Church instead of the cycles of the secular world.  Today, I thank Pope Benedict for bringing me further into the life of the Church with his supreme action of humility.  Our Shepherd is still shepherding even in the act of stepping down.


  1. I totally believe that the Holy Spirit will guide the conclave to elect the right person to be the next Pope. It might not be the person we want (if we know who the likely people are) but it will be the person who needs to lead the Church.

  2. Mandi, I know how you feel! I have similar worries, but I am trying to trust and hope for the best. And I am so grateful to this pope. I changed my plans for Lent based on his announcement:


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